Police split over paperwork
By CARRIE JOHNSON
© St. Petersburg Times,
CRYSTAL RIVER -- Crystal River police Chief James Farley and Sgt. Mack Ballard were having another dispute about the number of reports officers should write. Farley argued for more, Ballard lobbied for less.
Finally, Farley issued this warning: "I said to him, "Mack, if you don't do it, it's going to come back and bite you.' "
About a month later, it did.
On May 18, Farley suspended Ballard without pay for a day and ordered him to attend stress-management counseling, at least in part because of Ballard's failure to write reports on two occasions.
The incident illustrates a rift in the 21-member Crystal River Police Department. On one side is Farley and those officers who favor doing what is required to upgrade the department into a professional, accredited agency. On the other are those, such as Ballard, who say the extra paperwork is redundant and keeps officers from their duties.
"We've created so many reports that it's keeping officers off of the streets," Ballard said.
At the center of the conflict is Sgt. Mike Klyap, a 12-year veteran of the Police Department. In addition to his duties as head of the detective unit and training coordinator, Klyap is helping Farley win accreditation for the Police Department.
Klyap said he keeps up on changes in state and national police policies and tries to adapt the Crystal River department accordingly. As a result, many of the added requests for reports come from Klyap, albeit with Farley's approval.
Klyap said he's trying to instill discipline in the department, and that hasn't made him overly popular with some of his colleagues.
"We have a bunch of whining complainers who shouldn't even be in this profession," Klyap said. "There are some people who want to do the least amount of work and get by, when if they just did a simple report, they wouldn't have any trouble."
Klyap is also the top candidate for a new lieutenant position Farley is creating, which would promote him above the other supervisors, including Ballard. Farley said Klyap is likely to win the promotion because he is the only supervisor in the department who meets the education requirements.
The new lieutenant position, to be created by upgrading a sergeant's slot, will be in charge of support services, including the department's two detectives, the crime prevention officers and school crossing guards.
The chief said he does turn to Klyap frequently.
"He's a hard, hard worker," Farley said. "He's someone that you can count on when you need something done and you need it done right. If that's favoritism, there's a reason for it."
Ballard: Paperwork can tie up officers
Klyap was named accreditation manager in January, about the time the department applied for certification.
To win accreditation, the department has two years to adhere to a set of state standards that regulate everything from off-duty employment to record keeping, said Jenny Donaway, program manager for the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation.
Farley said there are some within the agency who have resisted the change.
"It's like anywhere in society: We have some people who want to work hard toward a goal and we have others who aren't as motivated," he said.
Farley said he has kept the department informed of the changes through meetings and individual conferences. Farley said some officers who didn't like the new system left the department, although he declined to give names.
Accreditation would benefit the Police Department by making it more reputable in the eyes of citizens, the courts and other law enforcement agencies, Farley said.
"People have expectations of us," he said. "They expect the best cop they can get when they make a call."
Ballard said he agrees that winning accreditation would be good for the department, and he said he's working hard to do his part. But he thinks some of the new requests for paperwork are ridiculous.
For example, Ballard said that officers are now required to write a report for every car they search, whether they find something or not. An overworked officer might decide to take a pass if it's a close call, he said.
Also, officers have to fill out a report of a civil matter, which doesn't involve a crime, Ballard said. "You could write reports for everything you do," he said. "I just think some of it could be streamlined."
Klyap: Incidents on record were trivial
Some of the resentment toward Klyap appears to have leaked beyond the walls of the police headquarters.
Internal police documents given to the Citrus Times show Klyap was twice investigated by the Police Department for alleged misdeeds during the past two years. Both times he was given verbal counseling by a supervisor, a far lesser punishment than Ballard received.
In the first instance, Klyap was under review for not properly filling out a "found property" report in September of 1999.
According to the documents, Klyap was teaching a narcotics class at Central Florida Community College and an Ocala police officer offered to give him a "bong," a device used to smoke marijuana, for use in his instruction.
Klyap later filled out a report for receipt of the bong, but wrote that it was found at the Crystal River Police Department, not at Central Florida Community College, the documents said. He also did not write a narrative for the report, it said.
Lt. Gordon Rowland, Farley's second-in-command, investigated. He called the incident "insignificant" and said it didn't merit any discipline beyond telling Klyap not to do it again.
"It sounds like we have someone who wants to air every little bit of our dirty laundry," Rowland said in a recent interview.
Farley said he was aware of the investigation and agreed with Rowland's decision not to discipline Klyap.
The second incident occurred last November.
According to the documents, Klyap left the door to the department's evidence room unlocked. Again, Rowland investigated and found no need for formal punishment.
Farley said the evidence room was inspected as soon as the open door was noticed.
Klyap characterized both incidents as trivial, and said he has never been afraid to own up to his mistakes.
"I think there are some people in this agency who when they do something wrong, they try to dig up something on somebody else," he said.
Farley said there's no comparison between those incidents and the infractions for which Ballard was punished.
Ballard was disciplined for not completing reports on two occasions and not conducting a thorough investigation into a hit-and-run car wreck involving Patrick Fitzpatrick, a prominent local banker.
But Ballard, who is appealing his punishment, said it sounds to him like officers are being held to different standards.
"We all need to be on the same sheet of music and we all need to be treated the same," he said.
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